Brooklyn Book Review

Liana A
4 min readNov 18, 2020

What Girl Icon does this book represent?

  • Set in the 1950s Toibin’s Brooklyn follows a young Irish woman named Ellis Lacey as she moved from her town in Ireland to New York City, specifically Brooklyn. The main girl icon in this book is the leading lady Ellis Lacey. The type of girl icon that this book represents would be one who is capable and confident of the way that she lives her life. In the beginning parts of the book, this is something that Ellis struggles with. She initially has a hard time with her life specifically that her parents intervene in her life a bit too much, not having much luck with friendships and moving to a new country while not knowing a single person. These things took a large toll on Ellis, but she did not let this stop her once she got to New York. Even though she was in a new place where she knew no one, she still put all her attention into her studies and her career. This shows exactly what type of Girl Icon she is.

How would you describe the rite of passage aspects of the story?

  • The rite is passage aspect of this book would be the struggle she faced choosing between New York and Enniscorthy, Ireland, and growing into adulthood. This is a struggle/rite of passage that many people can relate to. It is common that people move away from their home at some point in their life, and have to make the decision if they think this new place will serve them better than their home. Though this takes place in the 1950s this is something that I can relate to. In the book on page 216, we see Ellis really struggling with where she should be (New York or Enniscorthy) after her sister's death. Her sister's death led her to think about her life and where she should really be. “The idea that she would leave all of this — the rooms of the house once more familiar and warm and comforting — and go back to Brooklyn and not return for a long time again frightened her now”(page 216). The way that she goes about this situation and hardship shows her growth into adulthood.

What aspects of Girl Power does this book explore?

  • One of the aspects of girl power that the book explores was her deciding to move away from home with a strict personal plan to get her dream job and receive an education. Something that we also need to keep in mind is that this book takes place in the 1950s but a lot of the struggles that she went through can be related to now for many people in 2020.
  • Another aspect of girl power we see Ellis display in the book would be the fact that it is the 1950’s and she is seriously pursuing a career and an education, and not taking the route she would have if she had stayed in Ireland( stay in her town and get married). The option she chooses was not an easy one and her bravery is something that does not come easily. Many sacrifices and life changes were made for it, but it is what she wanted so she made sure to do whatever she could do to achieve this goal.

What is a breakthrough about the book?

  • There are many aspects of the book that are breakthrough. One of them again is her moving away from the place she grew up in to achieve a goal and life that she has always wanted. Another really big breakthrough in this book would be the ending. In the ending, she is back in Enniscorthy and finds herself going back to New York for her self, and not for Tony. Though she loves him and wanted to be with him, he was not her main purpose for going back to New York. She wants back for herself, her career, and her education. This is really interesting because as we know this book was written by a man, so seeing him write this storyline about a woman in the 1950s does not revolve around a man is progressive for the time.

Is there a film, TV, or theatrical version of this story? Does it live up to the book?

  • In January of 2016, John Crowly directed the film adaptation of Brooklyn. In the film, it stared Saoirse Ronan and other actors such as Julie Walters and Emory Cohen. From the film, Saoirse Ronan received multiple film nominations such as the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress, New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, and London Film Critics Circle Award for British Actress of the Year. The film adaptation did live up to the book. Some adaptations stray away from the original versions but Crowly made sure to stick to the book and accurately play it out on screen.

Liana Adhanom